By  on December 13, 2010

BEIJING — Versace is bringing its bling to China.

The Italian house, which just opened a jewelry-dedicated boutique here, has some other big plans for the region. Specifically, the company is about to launch a new retail concept here in the coming days. Donatella Versace made a personal — and rather secretive — visit to the capital to check out the store and approve the final touches. Eager to keep a low profile, she did not make an appearance at a Friday cocktail for the jewelry store opening.

Gian Giacomo Ferraris, Versace’s chief executive officer, said the new concept store will open before Christmas in the Village North, a shopping complex in Sanlitun, an affluent area with numerous stores and restaurants. The executive said the new concept will crystallize the brand’s essence for “the 21st century.” He declined to give details on the design but said the store was developed with a British architect.

“Probably it will be Donatella who will disclose [the details], so I have to be careful about the information,” he said, adding that it will be Versace’s 20th directly operated fashion boutique in China.

The Sanlitun store’s entryway features glass doors surrounded by gold lacquered paneling. Viewed from an exterior window, the interiors feature a minimalist white décor with tiled floors and translucent gold-hued fixtures hanging from the ceiling.

A Versace China spokeswoman said the new concept is still in a trial phase and a similar pilot store will open in Casablanca, Morocco, at some point. She said a Milan launch is slated for sometime next year, but she could not elaborate further, as a global public relations strategy for the project has not been finalized.

Meanwhile, Versace plans to open another flagship in Shanghai’s Plaza 66 shopping center sometime next year as well as another location in Zhengzhou, a city in Henan Province, next year, according to Giuseppe Oliveri, Versace’s Asia-Pacific managing director.

The new 861-square-foot jewelry boutique in Beijing is located in China Central Place, a high-end shopping complex, next to the brand’s flagship carrying apparel and accessories. The store is Versace’s third jewelry-dedicated store in the world, joining similar boutiques in Rome and Dubai.

“This is the latest expression of our expansion plan in greater China,” said Ferraris, who flew in from Mumbai for the opening. “It is also the demonstration of our interest in bringing our customers the wide range of our lifestyle collections.”

Versace has sold watches in China in department and multibrand stores for six years. Switzerland-based Vertime produces the brand’s jewelry and timepieces.

“We felt it was time to push again for the growth of our business in China, and we felt the need of having a dedicated boutique to reinforce the watch business but also launch the jewelry business,” said Paolo Marai, Vertime president and chief executive officer. “Asia is a difficult market.”

Marai explained that several countries — including China, India and Thailand — are producing jewelry at lower costs for consumers in the region. Import taxes on Versace’s products are up to 40 percent higher than those in stores elsewhere, which could be a challenge in convincing wealthy Chinese who frequently travel to buy Versace’s jewelry line closer to home, he said.

Elsewhere, Ferraris said that Versace plans to return to the Japanese market on a wholesale basis early next year. The brand pulled out of the country in summer 2009 and shut its handful of remaining stores in the country.

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